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ARPA-E Announces Second Round, Fellowship Program

Richard M. Jones
Number 144 - December 10, 2009  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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“I am pleased to announce ARPA-E’s second funding opportunity because it demonstrates our commitment to lead the next Industrial Revolution in clean energy technologies, creating thousands of new jobs while helping cut carbon pollution. This solicitation focuses on three cutting-edge technology areas which could have a transformational impact.” - Energy Secretary Steven Chu

Electrofuels, advanced carbon capture technologies, and batteries for electrical energy storage are the focus of the second round of funding opportunities offered by the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy. Also announced this week was the establishment of the ARPA-E Fellows Program.

On Monday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the three funding opportunities, for which concept papers are due on January 15. Awards are expected to total $100 million. They are described as follows:

Innovative Materials & Processes for Advanced Carbon Capture Technologies (IMPACCT):

“Coal-fired power plants currently generate approximately 50% of the electricity in the United States. While coal is a cheap and abundant resource, the continued reliance upon coal as an energy source could potentially have serious consequences in terms of global warming. The objective of this topic is to fund high risk, high reward research efforts that will revolutionize technologies that capture carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants, thereby preventing release into the atmosphere. ARPA-E seeks to complement existing DOE efforts in the field of carbon capture, led by the Office of Fossil Energy and National Energy Technology Laboratory, by accelerating promising ideas from the basic research stage towards large-scale demonstrations and ultimately, commercialization. Areas of interest include: low-cost catalysts to enable systems with superior thermodynamics that are not currently practical due to slow kinetics; robust materials that resist degradation from caustic contaminants in flue gas; and advanced capture processes that dramatically reduce the parasitic energy penalties and corresponding increase in the cost of electricity required for carbon capture.”

Batteries for Electrical Energy Storage in Transportation (BEEST):

“In this topic, ARPA-E seeks to develop a new generation of ultra-high energy density, low-cost battery technologies for long electric range plug in hybrid electric vehicles and electric vehicles (EVs). The development of high energy, low cost batteries represents the critical barrier to wide-spread deployment of EVs, which if achieved would have a profound impact on U.S. oil security, greenhouse gas emissions, and economic growth. The ambitious goals for this program are largely based upon the aggressive long term EV battery goals set forth by the United States Automotive Battery Consortium, a public-private collaboration between the U.S. Department of Energy and leading U.S. automotive companies. If successful, new battery technologies developed under this program will give electrified light-duty vehicles range, performance, lifetime, and cost required to shift transportation energy from oil to the domestically powered U.S. electric grid. ARPA-E's objective is to fund high-risk, high reward research efforts that will promote leadership in this emerging EV battery market.”

Electrofuels:

“ARPA-E is seeking new ways to make liquid transportation fuels - without using petroleum or biomass - by using microorganisms to harness chemical or electrical energy to convert carbon dioxide into liquid fuels. Many methods of producing advanced and cellulosic biofuels are under development to lessen our dependence on petroleum and lower carbon emissions. Most of the methods currently under development involve converting biomass or waste, while there are also approaches to directly produce liquid transportation fuels from sunlight and carbon dioxide. Although photosynthetic routes show promise, overall efficiencies remain low. The objective of this topic is to develop an entirely new paradigm for the production of liquid fuels that could overcome the challenges associated with current technologies. ARPA-E requests innovative proposals which can overcome these challenges through the utilization of metabolic engineering and synthetic biological approaches for the efficient conversion of carbon dioxide to liquid transportation fuels. ARPA-E specifically seeks the development of organisms capable of extracting energy from hydrogen, from reduced earth-abundant metal ions, from robust, inexpensive, readily available organic redox active species, or directly from electric current. Theoretically such an approach could be 10 times more efficient than current photosynthetic-biomass approaches to liquid fuel production.”

Further information on this second round is available here.

ARPA-E received $400 million in the economic stimulus legislation, distributing $151 million in the first round of research grants awarded in early November. Competition was stiff: 3,600 initial concept papers were selected from which 37 final awards were made.

ARPA-E also announced a new Fellows Program on December 8. Fellows and Senior Fellows will serve for up to two years as full-time federal employees. The announcement describes the program as follows:

“Participants in the ARPA-E Fellows Program will actively help create the strategic direction and vision of the country's first agency devoted exclusively to transformational energy technology research and development. Fellows will support Program Directors in program creation, in addition to undertaking independent explorations of promising future research areas for ARPA-E. Fellows will engage with world class researchers and innovators to develop theses for high impact ARPA-E research program areas, will prepare energy technology and economic analyses, and will make recommendations to DOE senior management. Fellows will also gain exposure to energy policy and all aspects of the energy technology development lifecycle, including scientific research, technology prototyping and development, and technology commercialization.”

Information on the fellowship program is available here.

In describing the new program, ARPA-E Director Arun Majumdar said: “We need the best and the brightest to help shape our nation’s energy future. The ARPA-E Fellows Program gives us the opportunity to invest in our up and coming researchers and entrepreneurs as we continue to look for creative and inventive approaches to transform the global energy landscape while advancing America's technology leadership.”

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
rjones@aip.org
301-209-3095